EXCLUSIVE: A senior body representing waste disposal officers has backed the creation of a ‘producer compliance scheme balancing system’ by WEEE compliance schemes.
The initiative, known as the ‘PBS’, has been set up by 23 compliance schemes. It will deal collaboratively with requests from councils for the clearance of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) from CA sites where local authorities and schemes have been unable to agree a contract to deal with the material.
NAWDO – the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers – was consulted on the agreement, after concerns were raised over a potential drop in demand for WEEE from local authority civic amenity sites.
The move comes as a number of schemes had been issued with ‘Regulation 34’ requests which ultimately force a WEEE compliance scheme to pick up the material from a local authority CA site for free.
Regulation 34 exists as a mechanism within the WEEE system – to ensure the WEEE from council sites continues to be collected from councils free of charge, even if there is no demand for the WEEE to generate ‘evidence’ for producer compliance schemes.
In recent months councils have reported a drop in the overall demand for WEEE due to changes in the compliance market following amendments to the WEEE Regulations in 2014 (see letsrecycle.com story).
Prior to the regulatory changes, WEEE from council sites had been sought after by producer compliance schemes (PCSs). If the schemes then found they did not need the tonnages to meet the collection requirements of their own producer members, they could sell the surplus ‘evidence’ to other compliance schemes.
Now compliance schemes are subject to a series of collection targets for different WEEE streams, and must pay a ‘compliance fee’ if they are unable to reach the required level.
As the fee acts an alternative means of compliance for schemes, it is claimed there is less competition for CA site WEEE as there may be less demand for surplus WEEE evidence as schemes might pay the compliance fee instead.
Around nine Regulation 34 requests are understood to have been made throughout the summer – a greater number than had been anticipated by compliance schemes.
To manage this, 23 schemes, acting through the WEEE Scheme Forum have worked together to establish the Producer Compliance Scheme Balancing System (PBS) which it is claimed will make the management of Regulation 34 requests ‘more manageable’ for schemes and councils.
Schemes involved in the initiative include ecosurety, Electrolink, ERP, Recolight, Repic, Valpak and Veolia – although around 11 schemes, including ComplyDirect and Northern Compliance, have opted not to participate in the PBS. The PBS is administered by consultancy firm Anthesis.
Any Regulation 34 request submitted to a compliance scheme which is a signatory to the PBS will immediately be sent to Anthesis via an online portal.
This will then be divided up to different compliance schemes based on the different available WEEE streams through a staged tendering process – with processing and collection costs and evidence shared out across the participating schemes.
The system is designed to encourage schemes to bid for work – with those taking the least WEEE in proportion to their obligated tonnage footing a larger proportion of the bill for the running of the system.
Schemes involved in the PBS say that the system will give local authorities a greater level of certainty over the clearance of sites – with councils able to enter into an agreement of up to six months – rather than having to issue a fresh Regulation 34 request for every physical site clearance.
Nigel Harvey, chair of the WEEE Scheme Forum, which established the PBS, said: “We are pleased to have set up a system to help the 23 PBS members respond effectively to a Regulation 34 request. The PBS members are doing the right thing, by cooperating to reduce their financial risk and operate in the best interests of the UK WEEE system.
“Local authorities should be aware that they can send a Regulation 34 request to any PCS. It is therefore important for them to spread requests across all PCSs. It would be unfortunate if all requests went only to those PCSs that are cooperating to ensure that the WEEE system continues to perform well.”
The move has been backed by NAWDO – the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers – which represents the interests of around 80% of the UK’s waste disposal authorities. The organisation was consulted in the development of the PBS, and has called for a ‘strong and consistent’ approach towards collecting WEEE from council sites.
In a statement, the organisation said: “WEEE is an important element of the services our members provide and the WEEE market has seen substantial changes over the past year which has given rise to uncertainty for all within the sector.
“NAWDO strongly encourages a fair and consistent approach towards collecting WEEE from DCFs ensuring all sites receive a service regardless of location and/or market conditions. Whilst using Regulation 34 is an option of last resort for our members, it is nevertheless a vital instrument to ensure WEEE arising at our member’s DCFs is collected promptly and treated safely.”NAWDO
“NAWDO strongly encourages a fair and consistent approach towards collecting WEEE from DCFs ensuring all sites receive a service regardless of location and/or market conditions. Whilst using Regulation 34 is an option of last resort for our members, it is nevertheless a vital instrument to ensure WEEE arising at our member’s DCFs is collected promptly and treated safely.”
Despite offering its backing for the PBS – NAWDO has said it would encourage ‘advance discussions’ with compliance schemes to avoid the use of Regulation 34 requests in the first instance.
The organisation added: “We look forward to working with the sector in order to ensure that high quality PCS services can be provided over a period in time in order to avoid the need for duplicating Regulation 34 requests every few days. NAWDO supports the work DEFRA undertakes in encouraging a stable collection system for WEEE. Reducing administrative burdens and providing greater certainty over collection agreements would benefit PCSs, Local Authorities and the re-processors.”
The scheme has also been backed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) which oversees the UK’s WEEE system.
A spokesman for the Department, said: “Making the best use of our resources is important for our environment and our economy. The PCS Balancing System will help make the recycling of electrical and electronic equipment easier for local authorities and fairer for compliance schemes. It will also mean producers of household electrical equipment are playing their role in local recycling and helping to protect our environment.”
Adrian Hawkes, policy director at Valpak has voiced his support for the PBS, and called for non-participating compliance schemes to opt-in.
He said: “I think it is a very positive development to have set up this arrangement quite rapidly in response to the fact that some local authorities have had to resort to Regulation 34. We don’t know if that will continue to be a relatively small part of the WEEE collection picture, so we thought it was a very positive idea to set up the PBS because it gives a benefit to the schemes in sharing the risk of these requests and it reassures the authority with a long term arrangement.”